May 30, 2016
There are a lot of music festivals in Atlanta. None of them are like Shaky Knees. An indie rock lovers go-to lineup, Shaky Knees is only three years old. With a highlighted emphasis on good food, the proprietors of this three-day music event provides its festival goers with a laid back setting to see both up-and-coming acts as well as musicians that are world-renowned. Perfect weather, city park setting and a buzzing city just outside the limits of the entry gate; Shaky Knees is the ideal way to kick off festival season or introduce a festival newbie to the scene. There are reasons that we are drawn to different corners of the world to stand in fields, and on concrete to listen to bands we will likely see several times. Below I’ve listed this year’s epic highlights.
Real live female rock n’ roll is about attitude. Interested in opening your ears to the idea of pure music without the boundaries of identity? Check out The Kills. Walking up to this show was like walking both back and forward into time. The vibrations of their hard sound jarred the sternum. A fresh sound came from the front while I weaved through Metallica t-shirts everywhere. Ever gravitating though I made it to the front, I was instantly addicted to what was before me, even though I missed the opportunity to see Slowdive, All Them Witches and Jane’s Addiction. I knew what I was giving up… Worth it! I don’t remember the crowd once I got through it. I don’t remember the vibe. I was the only person standing in front of that stage as far as I knew. I felt angry. I felt new. I felt like I was listening to rock n’ roll for the first time.
Technical difficulties are a festival bummer. Standing in the heat smashed against strange bodies while waiting for your favorite artist to enter the stage is a test of human sanity. Hearing that you have to wait 45 minutes to hear said artist? Suicide tempting. Alejandro Rose-Garcia appeared to his calling fans in a crowd running back as far as the eye can see on that hot Saturday afternoon. With no juice in the amps he grabbed his guitar and jumped in front of the stage to be close to the crowd. Familiar chords strike and everyone knew what to do. Under the sun in Atlanta Shakey Graves played “Dearly Departed” and we were the choir. Thirty minutes later the sound was up and Shakey was playing with the volume turned up to 11. But that moment when we were all together singing… Those are the moments you can’t pay for.
St Paul and The Broken Bones
Church service at Shaky Knees began on Sunday at the main stage. It was 4:15pm and an electricity ran through the gathering of music lovers. People laid out across the lawn, people of all ages, and many who had know idea what they were about to be exposed to. It’s always a great show. But on Sunday St. Paul and The Broken Bones split open the souls of the congregation standing before them and washed out their weary souls. Lead singer Paul Janeway played the part of minister. His signature vocal tone seemed to ride on the breeze that touched the faces fixed on the stage. As always, in a full suit, Janeway rolled on the ground amidst the crowd and crawled on his belly during his song “Broken Bones & Pocket Change.” After climbing back to the stage at the end of the tune he realized the had ripped open his pants, exposing his leg. Moved by the spirit of music he didn’t seem to mind much. We were all different after the set was over.
There is a show at every festival that you take home with you and keep in your memory bank. When sitting at your desk wondering why you do what you do for money you can reach back into your mind and take out that show and hold it in your center for a while. The feeling of grass around your flip flops and touching your toes as the warmth of the season curls around the parts of you that go unnoticed in the real world. Atlas Genius was just this kind of carefree, soul reassuring show. Like how you felt when you heard Third Eye Blind in high school– just good. Really, really good. A perfect Sunday day show, Atlas Genius had a tough task getting Shaky Knees goers hyped after a mind blowing Saturday night (See My Morning Jacket) but delivered in full. Their alternative, reggae-influenced electric sound is what the inside of your mind sounds like when you’re having a really great day. They play music that makes you feel like you already know the words when you are only hearing their tune for the first time. Identifiable. Light. Relevant. A show to get you through those fleeting Office Space moments.
My Morning Jacket
Everyone was there: Kids who had never heard of MMJ, 30-something lifelong loyal fans, old people – surprisingly a lot of older people. It was like a party thrown by a friend of yours who seems to get along with all walks of life. Jim James and his bandmates never leave you wanting. This show in particular though was a theatrical unfolding of surprises for the eyes. Fireworks, sparklers, smoke streams, confetti, a disco ball. All the bases were covered. The magic moment? Steam Engine.” It’s the song that holds the festival’s namesake and it was a crowd hopeful. All weekend it was on the minds of those in the know. When the ballad started you could have lit Bank of America Plaza with the energy from the people. The music seemed to wrap around the crowd as the city behind the stage appeared to get somehow closer in sight. Small bits of biodegradable paper littered the sky as we heard him say it: “Your skin looks good in the moonlight and god damn those shaky knees.” Laser lights from behind the band reached out in various shades of blue and bright lights from the big city made a great backdrop to the stage. Moonlight cast down from above reflecting light beams from an enormous disco ball overhead. Magic. One of a kind magic.
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